Free wheel­ing


The Shed - - News - By Jacqui Madelin Pho­tographs: Jacqui Madelin and Ross Wear­ing

Lots of folk fid­dle about with cars in sheds, but a few New Zealan­ders are han­dling cars with a dif­fer­ence. Gob­a­bygo is a vol­un­teer-run char­ity that buys ride-in toy elec­tric cars and adapts them for dis­abled chil­dren. Some of those vol­un­teers put the cars to­gether, make the adap­ta­tions, and fit them, all in their shed.

It started with a group of mates in Auck­land who had heard about Gob­a­bygo over­seas and fig­ured that its DIY ethos would work well here. Kidz First pae­di­a­tri­cian Adrian Tren­holme sug­gested three chil­dren who could ben­e­fit from the in­creased mo­bil­ity, and re­tired fur­ni­ture­maker Ge­off Ben­tham was roped in to work out the first adap­ta­tions and how to fit them.

Those ini­tial chil­dren ranged in size, age, and dis­abil­ity but the ben­e­fits of in­creased mo­bil­ity were im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous. Par­ents of­ten cry when they see their dis­abled child at last able to join in with mo­bile play along­side si­b­lings on bi­cy­cles or scoot­ers.

Unique adap­ta­tions

Af­ter dis­cussing and mea­sur­ing, Ge­off went home and made, then fit­ted those first adap­ta­tions. The crew soon re­al­ized that eval­u­at­ing in­di­vid­ual needs sep­a­rately was not re­al­is­tic, so a ther­a­pist pro­duced an ap­pli­ca­tion form. The team also be­gan work­ing out what could be built ahead of time and started stock­pil­ing parts.

Ge­off dis­cov­ered that plas­tic drawer han­dles make good ad­di­tions to steer­ing wheels. He de­vel­oped a plug-in wiring

adap­ta­tion to add a buddy but­ton to the cars so the throt­tle can eas­ily move from the foot to the steer­ing wheel and head. The ini­tial har­ness sup­port made from plumb­ing pipe was re­placed with a ply­wood back­rest that he de­signed. And he did it all in his sub­ur­ban garage.

Gob­aby grows

The char­ity has grown a lot and de­mand for the cars is in­creas­ing. Sup­port from com­pa­nies such as BMW and Proac­tive Fire Pro­tec­tion — and the hard work of Ro­tary branches na­tion­wide rais­ing funds — has made it pos­si­ble to give away the cars.

But Gob­aby needs more skilled vol­un­teers to help in mak­ing the adap­ta­tions and to ser­vice the cars.

The range of dis­abil­i­ties Gob­a­bygo has worked around is wide and var­ied — but these chil­dren all have one thing in com­mon. Their Gob­a­bygo car has in­tro­duced them to mo­bile play for the first time, and it’s all down to a few men in sheds.

How can you help?

Gob­a­bygo needs peo­ple with a wide range of skills to help in the whole process of adapt­ing cars. Visit face­ gob­a­by­gonz or gob­a­ for more in­for­ma­tion.

The first kids to get cars — Jiselle has heart dis­ease and needed back sup­port to slow the rate of fa­tigue, Lilli (rear) needed side sup­port in a smaller car, with the throt­tle shifted closer to her tiny frame Below: The fi­nal touch — Gob­a­bygo...

Above: (Left to right) Friends Alis­tair McLean, David John­cock, Al­lan Horner, and Graeme Lobb put the cars to­gether in Al­lan’s shed

Al­lan ap­ply­ing steer­ing han­dles: BMW and Gob­a­bygo lo­gos await use

Below: Ge­off dis­cussing the adap­ta­tions Hunter will need with his Nel­son ther­a­pist, Mindy Silva

Drawer han­dles make great steer­ing-wheel ex­ten­sions

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